As a country, the United States has been very slow to react to climate change. Part of the problem is that our politics has been corrupted by the influence of fossil fuel money. The other part is that the constant stream of misinformation has led to an imbalance in the acceptance of science, and the public has taken a long time to come around to the idea that we need to act.
But today the public does agree that it is time to act, and a majority of Americans no longer deny the existence of man-made climate change. The main issue is that the deniers are calling the shots, so action remains either completely absent or painfully weak.
To make matters a little more confusing, while most Americans agree that climate action is necessary, polls show us that they believe it is very low on the country’s list of priorities, with things like global terrorism, the economy, and income inequality consistently scoring higher on the priority list. The irony is that most of the issues that rank higher than climate change can all be directly related to the state of the environment.
In order to inspire action, perhaps it’s time that the environmental movement changed the way it frames the debate. Rather than speaking mostly in terms of environmental destruction we should be pointing out the economics of environmental action and the benefit that action can bring to the overall economy. And vice versa — plenty of economic actions by the government have a direct, often negative, impact on the environment and the health of American citizens.
This approach makes more sense when you take into consideration the tactics used by the fossil fuel industry. Rather than outright denying that a problem exists, many industry insiders and politicians have claimed that climate action costs too much money, or that it would destroy job markets, or that the expense isn’t worth the effort. They are using economics to make their point, but the dollar signs actually line up more in favor with environmentalists than with the industry.
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